WSTA Annual Conference - Summary

This year’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s Annual Conference brought together a stellar line-up of speakers whose frank and forthright opinions on Brexit kept everyone enthralled.

In his first Interview since quitting as Minister of State for Trade Policy The Rt Hon Lord Price was enticed to open up to Alex Forrest former ITV political correspondent unrestrained by government protocol.

There were no holds barred as Alex went straight in with the question everyone wanted to know why did he leave Government?

Lord Price ruled out any spat with politicians, he said:

“The politicians do a lot more than they are given credit for. Nobody is perfect we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

Brexit is hugely important it is the biggest task for us since the Second World War. It’s going to be challenging but I think the civil service – which I found to be highly impressive - will do a good job for us.”

Lord Price used his interview to send a message to industry to be positive and to be on fighting form to tackle the competitive pressures.

He added: “My personal view is politically you can't go back. You are either in the EU or you’re not in the EU. The middle ground will not work for the UK. We should be optimistic and really positive about leaving.

“Business needs to get its head around things. We need to get our businesses into fighting form now… and be ready to meet the competitive world full on.”

His expert analysis followed an equally up-front speech from the WSTA Chief Executive Miles Beale.

Miles told the packed theatre at the Royal Institute of Great Britain:

“The clock is ticking. The Great British wine and spirit trade is under-appreciated and over-taxed. This has to change.


“Food and drink is now the UK's biggest manufacturing sector, in no small part built on its alcoholic drinks market – alcoholic drinks which occupy four of the top seven spots on the UK’s export list.

“We cannot stand and watch this industry going from being under-appreciated by government to being undermined by government - We can and should expect government to do more for us.

“This is an unprecedented negotiation, it is not business as usual. Failure - no deal - is neither a goal nor an acceptable outcome.”

Miles and Lord Price were followed by Wetherspoons boss, Tim Martin, one of the most outspoken pro-leave business leaders on Brexit.


He was asked whether he had felt a change of heart on Brexit one year on? His answer: “I have become much more convinced!”

He stated his ideal Brexit scenario was “a common market, flexible immigration rules and free trade.”

Tim was joined on stage by Miriam González Durántez, Partner, Dechert LLP and Sir Simon Fraser, Managing Partner, Flint Global.

The trio rounded off the conference with a lively debate, Sir Simon suggesting that “Brexit is not at the top of pre-occupations of the governments of the EU", whilst Miriam argues that an extension to Article 50 may be the only way of ensuring Britain leaves the Union with a deal.

Miriam continued, making the case that “it is very difficult to get access to Single Market without accepting Britain as ‘rule-taker’ not ‘rule-maker’”, whilst Tim Martin lamented that “democratic pressure can't be applied to the EU negotiating team in the same way it can to the UK team” because David Davis will be going up against “unelected officials”.


Throughout the day during pre-conference Brexit workshops and conference speakers, scriber Chris Shipton produced a series of thought provoking graphics capturing the topics and people at the WSTA event.

In the afternoon, guests were invited to enjoy a range of drinks at the networking showcase.

As they sampled rum, gins, vodkas and wines from across the globe, including England and Argentina, guests had the opportunity to have their silhouette etched in card by the supremely talented artist Allison Russell.

Our thanks to all who contributed to the WSTA conference which has been described as a “first class”, “fascinating”, “the best I can remember”.

No pressure for 2018 then! Planning for next year’s conference has already begun as Miles said in his speech “The WSTA aims to lead & be innovative; to rise to the challenge of opportunity - and to take the opportunity to challenge.”



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